It seems that throughout the weeks of sombre news around Covid-19 there have been ever increasing accounts of community spirit, kindness, and thoughtful good deeds. Everywhere, across all ages, so many individuals and organisations are helping and brightening the lives of others, making lockdown much more tolerable.
I have to say that among the most heart-warming are those elders in our community who are so inspirational; raising money for good causes, pushing themselves physically in feats of endurance that might challenge many younger folk and doing what they can to help in this pandemic.
These are women and men who have lived through war with its loss, trauma, rationing, and hardships that most of us can’t even imagine, and have every right to rest with their feet up; they’ve done their bit for their communities. But no, they think of new ways to help.
One of my favourites is 98-year-old great granny Rebecca Parker, who, despite stiff arthritic fingers, is playing the piano for one hundred days to raise money for NHS Lanarkshire. In the Lanark care home where she lives, she boosts the spirits of fellow residents and staff by playing Scottish traditional tunes every day on the house baby grand piano.
Mrs Parker who grew up on the Isle of Skye, also played accordion and fiddle in her youth, having been taught by her pianist mother. Going on to be a primary school teacher, my guess is she probably brought much lovely music to her pupils over the years too and one thing is surely certain, this musician’s love of playing has never waned.
Having been inspired by Captain Tom’s lengths of his garden, this Highland lady’s determination is matched by another great-grandmother, Margaret Payne, a mere youngster at 90 years of age, who is climbing the height of Suilven on the stairs of her Sutherland home and has so far raised over £400,000 for the Highland Hospice, the RNLI and NHS charities.
Her magnificent efforts have drawn praise from Everest mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington, who like Margaret, also scaled the stunning Suilven in his school days and retained an enduring love of that striking peak and its surrounding landscape.
What we must remember is that the life of pianist Rebecca Parker, and her astonishing fellow nonagenarians and centenarians, spans a period which pre-dates the NHS and underlines for us all why it is so precious. They remember days when healthcare was not free and poor health, back street treatment, or no treatment, brought pain, suffering and early death to many.
We are fortunate here to have a Scottish Government fully committed to the principle of our NHS remaining in public hands, and we can do no better than look to our older generation as to why this is so important.
As a fellow piano player, Rebecca Parker is such a wonderfully inspiring role model. If I am fortunate enough to reach anything remotely near the age of 98, I hope, like her, I am still playing. Don’t we just have so much to learn from our selfless elders!
(First published by Scottish Provincial Press 12th June 2020)